Island living at its best

I once spent a weekend at a villa in Nyali. It wasn’t new but it was super luxurious. Very Lamu-esque and old-school Swahili. The kind of place that encourages total relaxation. We were just getting comfortable in the idyllic surroundings when there was an electricity blackout. But it was early in the afternoon, so we didn’t get too worried about it, figuring that the power would be back before nightfall.

Yeah, we should have known better. At 7pm, this poor group of hapless Nairobians found itself groping around in the dark, under attack from a marauding swarm of mosquitoes, trying to shut the windows to keep their relatives out.

After locating a couple of halogen lamps, we kept our fingers crossed that we would not need to use them for any considerable amount of time. Two hours later and the lights were still out.

So we call Kenya Power. The first thing they asked for was the account number. I explained the situation. We don’t live here, we’re visiting for the weekend, but we’re not too far off from Nakumatt.

“You know the reason we ask for the account number is because we get calls from all over the country and we need to pinpoint your exact location. Once we know that, we can be able (sic) to tell what the problem is and then give you a reference number and dispatch a team.”

If you’ve ever called the power company before, you will know that those words, in that sequence, usually condemn you to darkness for much longer than the polite tone would suggest.

I didn’t have the account number but nonetheless, the lady on the other end of the line promised to “look into it”. Two hours later, nothing doing. I call back and a gentleman says that he is not aware that Nyali residents were experiencing a blackout. “It has not been reported so I am not aware. If you give me your account number, I will give you a reference number and then we can dispatch….”

I didn’t let him finish because it was obvious the conversation was going nowhere, fast.

Because we were cooling our heels with nothing more productive to do than send out SOSes, a call to the caretaker seemed in order. Everyone one around us seemed to have their power on and we began to wonder whether the electricity bill had even been paid.

“Sharifa, the power went off about four hours ago. Could there be a problem. It seems our neighbours still have their lights on?”

“Hapana dada, umeme umekatika area nzima (no dear, there’s a blackout in the entire neighbourhood).”

“But I’ve called Kenya Power and they are saying no outage has been reported in this area.”

“Kama wamesema hivyo, na stima zimepotea, basi zitarudi tu. Majirani huenda wana jenereta. Sisi hatuna. Sasa itabidi usubiri (if that’s what they said and the power has gone off, then it will come back on. The neighbours have generators. We don’t have one. Just be patient).”

Well, that’s coastal hospitality for you, I guess. No hurries and no worries in Africa. Take a chill pill. You’re on holiday after all. Why let a little thing like electricity cast a shadow over your otherwise cheery disposition. Just because the sun has set doesn’t mean it will not rise again. After a long, dark and sweaty night, light will come in the morning.

At least that’s what should have happened. We were without electricity the next day as well. This time we didn’t bother calling anyone.